Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 2/3/12
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dave Tippett is still consulting those reams of unorthodox stats he keeps in a secret location. Hes still tweaking personnel groups, assessing his teams strengths and needs and pushing psychological buttons to light fires under his underperformers. One thing the Coyotes coach isnt doing is pleading with his team to adopt a sense of urgency. If I have to be the one conveying it to them, they dont understand, Tippett said. Our guys have talked about where we are and the situation moving forward -- where we have to be. With the leadership we have in that room, that urgency should be there already. It'd better be. The Coyotes have 31 games left to play and trailed Minnesota by five points for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race entering Fridays games. As previously noted, the top six teams in the West have opened a sizable gap on the rest of the pack, and No. 7 Los Angeles appears to be finding its groove. That could leave five or six teams vying for one spot -- a lone chicken bone that will go to the hungriest dog. Were probably going to need 42, 43 or 44 (more) points. We know the math, defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. When you look at the past years, we bounced from second (place) or third to 12th within a matter of games, but now a lot of those teams are battling for one or two spots, so it makes it more demanding. The good news is we play a lot of Western Conference games, so its not up to other teams losing. We have to help ourselves. Help came first in the form of substantial practice time this week. After a grueling road schedule that made rest more important than practice -- and an All-Star break during which there was no practice time at all -- the Coyotes had three straight days to work out the kinks before they host Pacific Division leader San Jose on Saturday. We touched a lot of areas of our game, Tippett said. Theres some structural stuff, some special-teams stuff. Coming out of the break, I think it was very good for our team. Now we have to turn that into results in the game. Tippett highlighted three things the Coyotes need down the stretch to secure a playoff bid: better special teams play (particularly the power play), good goaltending from Mike Smith and consistency in the competitive areas of the game (things like finishing checks and blocking shots). The Coyotes have done the latter well at times, not so well at other times. Thats a big concern of mine, Tippett said. Left unsaid in Tippetts assessment is that his staff and general manager Don Maloney will be assessing the teams needs as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches. That should also add a sense of urgency to a roster that will likely see changes later this month. After the All-Star break is when everyone ramps it up, Smith said. Were still in the thick of things, but saying that, we cant afford to give away points. We have to compete hard every night. We have to play every game like its a playoff game. Its going to be a tough road, but I think we have the guys in here who can do it.
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